Why Networking Is A Lot Like Dating

Gen­er­ally, when I men­tion the word “net­working” to stu­dents, a look of sheer panic fills their eyes.  It’s as if I asked them to recite the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence or some obscure Shake­speare pas­sage.  As a Career Coun­selor, I am a huge advo­cate of net­working, but as a Mil­len­nial myself, I under­stand the uncom­fort­able feeling of actu­ally talking to a stranger in person, or even worse, over the phone (and I’m gen­er­ally using a land line, yes, they still exist).

Over the course of my var­ious career coaching/​counseling appoint­ments with stu­dents, I found myself trying to con­vince them that net­working really wasn’t that bad and then, all of a sudden, it hit me (I knew that look of pure panic looked vaguely familiar). Net­working was a lot like dating.  You know that moment when you think that guy or girl is kind of cute?  Maybe you’re in class or out with friends, and you’re just not sure exactly how to approach the sit­u­a­tion.  “Should I say some­thing, or no?  What would I even say?  Maybe they won’t like me.  Why did I wear this stupid shirt?”  I noticed a lot of my clients were having the same if not sim­ilar reactions/​questions when I was encour­aging them to net­work.  “What am I sup­posed to even say?  Why would they want to even talk to me?  I feel annoying.  Can I wear this shirt?”

My epiphany inspired me to write this series.  To give you a little pre­view, the next few posts are as fol­lows and will appear weekly:

  1. The Initial Approach (parts I and II)
  2. The First Date
  3. The Courtship
  4. Let's go steady

Stay tuned and hope­fully I’ll hit two birds with one stone here.

What are some aspects about net­working that freak you out?  What are some tips, for those of you who feel com­fort­able net­working, you would give to green networkers?

Kelly Scott is Assis­tant Director of Career Devel­op­ment and Social Media Out­reach at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. A social media enthu­siast and Gen Y, she enjoys writing about work­place cul­ture and per­sonal online branding. For more career insight, follow/​tweet her at @kellydscott4.